This year’s RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch has revealed that numbers of starling and house sparrow are still on a long term downward trend despite overall boost to populations due to a warm winter and bumper harvests.
More than 585,000 people took part in the survey this year, almost 100,000 more than last year, but participants found that populations of many bird species continued to decline. It is hoped that some of the keen citizen scientists will be inspired to take the next step and train for the RSPB’s more technical surveys.
A bumper crop season in 2013 and a warm winter meant that in general bird populations were slightly stronger than last year. A cold snap on the survey weekend (January 24-25th) drove more birds into gardens in search of food and shelter. However, the long-term downward trends for many species were not disguised.
House sparrows have declined 58% since the survey began in 1979 and starlings are down 80%. It is thought that changes to farmland management and the loss of good quality habitat are the main drivers of the falling populations. Other struggling garden bird species include the greenfinch and song thrush. Although many of the birds encountered in the survey are still widespread, their rate of decline causes concern amongst conservation scientists.
Source: Guardian online (March 2015)